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Review – Back to the Future (NES)

Ok, let’s cut to the chase, this game sucks.

I have long pushed this game as the worst game I have ever played, though I’m not so sure about that anymore.  Back to the Future is was a pretty bad ass awesome film, even back when it was new when this game came out.  You’d think that some of that would translate to the game on SOME level but it didn’t.  It’s essentially a bastardized version of Skate Or Die that has almost zero to do with Back to the Future.

So admittedly, the expectations of what makes a video game was somewhat different back in the days of the NES.  There weren’t highly detailed cinematics and for the most part, gameplay was pretty straight forward and unvarying for most games once it got rolling.  The whole idea of the stages mixed with mini games presented here is actually pretty dynamic and an interesting idea.  If only it didn’t feel so divided from the plot of the movie it’s based on.

Marty traverse across Hill Valley battling foes straight out of the film such as giant killer bees, and guys with panes of glass and armies of bullies.  He fends them off with his trusty bowling ball.  I’m not sure there were ever any bowling balls in any of the movies even as background items.  But then yeah, it’s an 80s video games, so some liberties with the plot are probably needed.  There really isn’t a genre of game that would really work for a Back to the Future Game.  Most people just want to drive the Delorean, which these days is best accomplished with a GTA Mod.

The real killer on this game, has to be the excruciating difficulty.  A lot of old school NES games are pretty difficult.  Blaster Master, Ninja Gaiden, these are all pretty tough games which require some skill to beat.  Completed Back to the Future takes a miracle.  The first issue is the dual timers.  Each stage has a timer, this isn’t too bad, it keeps the player from lollygagging through the stage and encourages being reactive.  The game also has a second timer in the form of the fading photograph.  The photograph lasts between stages but is refilled by these little clocks.  The issue is that these two mechanisms often work completely against each other.  Picking up enough clocks to keep the photo alive will often result in the stage timer running out.

There is also the whole deal of powering up to the Skateboard.  Marty starts out on foot but can pick up a much faster skateboard.  Losing the board is pretty much a guaranteed loss vs the timer.

If you can manage to keep your skateboard and beat the timer, you get to face off against some ridiculously tough mini game “boss” stages.  Throwing beers at bullies or catching kisses and musical notes.

The icing on the cake in this excruciating run is the music.  The exact same 30 second crap repeats endlessly from more or less the moment you turn on the console to the moment the game ends.  It’s like Chinese Water torture for video games. 

The whole package is just one big terrible mess.  Probably the only reason I played it as much as I had was that at the time I owned something like 5 NES titles.  It’s a pretty crappy game, but it’s still one I remember very well for this very reason.

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